An American Knockoff

Enrique Limon
08/08/2012

As witnessed in his latest show, An American Knockoff, seasoned artist Roger Shimomura’s work walks the line between political statement and absurdity—a result, he says, of spending his formative years trying to find a sense of place. 

“Most of my work is based around growing up being a person of color,” he tells SFR, adding that all the things that “bothered” him as a child continue to do so today. 

Not having any prominent Asian-American figures in pop culture to look up to during his youth, he looked inside his own family for inspiration.  

“I was driven by wanting to be like my three uncles; they were all very successful graphic designers in Seattle,” he reminisces. 

Taking an artistic page from their book, he began to draw the bountiful items of consumerist America that he dreamt of having, but that his parents could not provide on a limited income. 

“Drawing became a way of creating things for myself, like Schwinn bicycles and cowboys boots that my family couldn’t afford,” he recalls, adding that the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog provided a seemingly never-ending supply to his fictional-belongings stockroom. 

“There’s where art set into my psyche.”

Knockoff displays 13 works, all self-portraits, that reflect Shimomura’s love/hate relationship with what is considered to be authentically American. 

“[It’s] buying into that kind of brash consumerism that characterizes our society and trying to make something positive of it,” the internment camp survivor says, adding that, for him, the cathartic process was a mixture of “acceptance with skepticism.” 

A lifelong seeker of that acceptance, Shimomura found it in pop art when the movement was at its zenith.